Dollar stores’ sales rise

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By Chris Sardelli

For Leo Jefferies, shopping at dollar stores is all about the price.

Jefferies, a lifetime resident of Lancaster, says the discount stores help him save money during tough times. In fact, dollar stores have become his top destination for everything from candy to holiday greeting cards.

“Where else are you going to go and get a box of Christmas cards for $2.50?” Jefferies asked. “It’s much cheaper than other places you go in.”

Shameka Grier often travels to dollar stores around Lancaster, searching for the best deals on household cleaning supplies. She shops at the Dollar General off North Main Street, not only to save money each month, but because the staff is courteous.

“They’re very respectful, the employees. They’re very nice to you,” Grier said.

Grier says she prefers dollar stores to larger super stores because she doesn’t have to deal with the long lines and bustling crowds.

“I can come in and get out faster here,” she said.

Diane Barnes, who lives in Lancaster and works for a nonprofit agency, said she shops at Dollar General for specific items. She usually buys her cleaning supplies there, and always stops by to browse the store’s wide selection of greeting cards.

“I come here because it’s only a dollar,” Barnes said. “People don’t realize you pay more at the grocery store for cleaning products than at a discount store. I’m a true bargain shopper.”

Sales up while economy slumps

It appears many people are turning to dollar stores to ease the strain on their wallets in a down economy.

Tawn Earnest, spokeswoman for Dollar General, says customers have been flocking to their stores to find good products at a bargain.

“Our central focus is finding value,” Earnest said. “It has been a compelling model in good times and in bad times.”

According to Dollar General’s third quarter 2008 financial statement, the company’s same-store sales are up 10.6 percent. And compared to the same time last year, sales are up 12.4 percent, from $2.31 billion to $2.60 billion.

Earnest says consumables, a category that includes cleaning products and groceries, make up almost 67 percent of Dollar General’s sales.

Josh Braverman, spokesperson for Family Dollar stores, says sales at his company have increased as well. Sales are up 2 percent “across the board” over the previous quarter.

Braverman says the chain of 5,600 stores can offer brand names at lower prices because they carry less volume of product and sell items faster. This reduces overhead costs and allows the chain to be more competitive.

That’s why, Braverman says, people are attracted to dollar stores.

“People are looking for value and convenience in this time of great necessity,” he said.

Dollar stores hot at holidays

Shopping at dollar stores has increased during the holiday season.

Mary Moore, assistant manager of the Dollar Tree in the Wal-Mart shopping center off S.C. 9 Bypass, says business began increasing the day after Thanksgiving and has not stopped.

“I guess it’s because the economy has gotten so bad,” Moore said. “It’s been really good business for about a month. It has continued to pick up and I really think we’ve done really good.”

Moore says mugs, chocolate candies, money holders, stockings and wrapping paper have been hot sellers.

Lancaster resident Sarah Bills and her friend, Tiffany Carter, were hunting at Dollar General for items to help finish their Christmas shopping, such as gift bags.

“They have a lot of little neat things here,” Bills said. “They also have lots of choices to get for little kids, like toys.”

Christine Jackson, who works at BB&T, was looking at Dollar General for items for a holiday charity drive at her daughter’s school. On her list were toothbrushes, toothpaste and other toiletries, all of which she has picked up for $1 each or less.

“They’re really a better bargain,” Jackson said. “There are a lot of people worse off than I am and I hope someone would do it for me if I needed it.”

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli  at csardelli@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 416-8416